European Solar Telescope Preparatory Phase: Current status and next steps

The inclusion of EST in the ESFRI Roadmap and the accomplishment of the conceptual design led to the achievement of several milestones in the project. The preparatory phase is now under way

Artistic view of the European Solar Telescope

In March 2016 the European Solar Telescope was included in the ESFRI Roadmap. It was a milestone that led to other several key achievements, such as the successful application for EU funds devoted to the preparatory phase of ESFRI infrastructures, the approval of 4.5 million euros in regional funding by the Regional Government of the Canary Islands (committed to set up the Project Office and recruit personnel), and the release of annual contributions by the EAST partners.

Previously, the consortium had successfully accomplished the EST conceptual design, based on knowledge from existing telescopes and novel approaches to the new paradigms in solar physics.

All these elements have favoured the right moment for the EST preparatory phase to start up. This current phase will test the scientific concept and its feasibility. It will also undertake the analysis of the potential user community, the outlining of a business case, and the issuing of policy recommendations regarding the data acquired by the telescope.

The consortium will also take the first steps towards the required financial and political support from governments and funding agencies. Actually, during this phase both the EST consortium and their funding agencies will be provided with a detailed plan regarding the implementation of the European Solar Telescope. This plan will address technical and organisational (strategic) issues, as well as cost and risk analysis, providing the necessary information to make decisions.

Progress made so far has been satisfactorily assessed by the European Commission, declaring that the consortium is demonstrating its relevant role towards the realization of the European Solar Telescope. The Commission agrees that the EST proposal will add to the attractiveness of the European Research Area and foster international collaboration due to its unique scientific features.

Next challenges. From the technical point of view, the greatest challenge is to develop a design capable of delivering the scientific objectives of the European Solar Telescope. This technological effort must be accompanied by a political consensus on the implementation and suitability of the project. The culmination of this consensus will be expressed in the establishment of the EST ERIC (ERIC standing for “European Research Infrastructure Consortium”, the optimal legal figure for a pan-European research infrastructure such as EST), as decided by the PRE-EST Board in April 2018.